Thursday, December 27, 2007

Anglicans need not believe in the Virgin Birth

This is a fairly interesting little piece about the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, saying that the Virgin Birth, at least as recounted in Matthew, is a "legend". I can't tell if the statement is simply an instance of colossally stupid PR, or if Dr. Williams is simply being comprehended by lesser minds. In either case, I cannot really agree with him. Let me cite before I critique:

The Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams has picked apart elements of the
Christmas story, including how a star rose high in the sky and stood still to
guide the wise men to Jesus's birth place.

Stars simply don't behave
like that, he told the BBC during an interview.

Dr Williams said there
was little evidence that the three wise men had existed at all. Certainly there
was nothing to prove they were kings.

The only reference to the wise men
from the East was in Matthew's gospel and the details were very vague, he said.

I have a hunch that Dr. Williams is primarily bucking against the trend towards historicizing scripture, a move that I whole-heartedly support. On the other hand, I am very much a scripture-reading product of Fr. Tarazi and Fr. Behr, who likewise tend to go against the grain of historicizing scripture through and through, but who also are very careful to add the qualifier that scripture IS binding on Christians AS it's written, and that there IS a sense in which we must believe ALL of it.

Perhaps Dr. Williams had all of these qualifiers in mind. I must say that such statements are often difficult to decode for those who lack a formal theological education. But I would be interested to know if he indeed made further qualifications, or if he simply stuck to his point that "it's not a hurdle that new Christians need to bother with", in which case we're in disagreement. It's part of the creedal belief. While I would be all about him speaking in terms of "spiritualized" belief, I am quite uncomfortable with simply saying carte blanc that it's an unnecessary belief. After all, if Christ was not born from the virgin womb, in some sense, then we suffer an aesthetic problem saying that new Christians are born of the Virgin Church. The Church is the virgin mother, symbolized by Mary, who gives birth to new Christ's every day.

However he meant it, I reserve bloodthirsty judgment on him until I know more. But this I am certain of, it was not a smart thing to simply call it "a legend". This isn't Sampson killing 5,000 with the jawbone of an ass, nor is it Lot plugging his daughters while his wife is still being sprinkled on French Fries... this is a line from the Nicaean consensus of the early church. It's a cornerstone of Christian self-understanding, and at the very least he needs to tread these waters more carefully.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

thankfulness, Ray style

Seeing as though it's the second holiest part of the year (if you disagree and think it tops Pascha, then read some Behr/Hopko and try a 40 day fast) i've gotten to thinking about a couple of things I'm uniquely thankful for God bringing into my life these past few months:

1. i'm thankful for the thousand-acres of woodland near Mountainburg. It gives me a place to be free, to hunt, to hang with the boys (wes, Nate H, Jay, Dan, Shoji, Andy, Evan). I forgot how much I love this state until I got back into the wilderness. I thank god also for the other wonderful features of my home that I so often overlook: the trees, the playful squirrels, the many animals for me to hunt, all the little landmarks of Fulmer history, the smell and stillness of autumn and the pleasant bite of winter.

2. I'm thankful for my sisters and their friends. They've re-humanized me and grounded me back on terra firma after years of relative isolation in an academic bubble.

3. Also to my first classes of students for sticking with me as I figured out how to teach, especially for a few: Greg, Lizzie, Karen, Sheila, Matt, Cherish, Jamie, Shelby, Lindsey, Kenzie, Linh, John, Jimmy, Neal, Jojo, Zack, Jennifer, Katie, Shaundreika, D-Chap, Tara, Lukerts, Josh, Kelsey, and all the others I'm forgetting, for seeing me as a person who was teaching them, rather than just 'the prof' or 'the young guy'.

4. For Shoji, because there's nothing cooler than the couple of weeks we spent together, watching Tokyo meet the Mulberry; you were born part-Ainu, but I hope that your heart left part-Cherokee. Aboriginese unite!

5. For Wes and vong, because they've been the best old school friends around, and I couldn't ask for better.

6. For Farrah, for showing me how to love, forgive, and what those words look like enfleshed. It's odd watching someone take a little bit of advice from you, only to exceed you in spirit and wisdom, in such a short period of time.

7. For Barry, Tim and Shosh, for a variety of reasons, but particularly for their ability to keep it smart yet fun.

8. For Krish, Nate H, and Rob Avery, for pondering religion with love and opposition (and BW of course!) After all guys, sometimes gentiles do instinctively what the law commands, and show that although they do not know God, the Law of God is etched upon their hearts. (romans 1)

9. Nate Preston, for telling me that we should not trust anybody who doesn't read fiction, and thus reminding me that I needed become once again become trustworthy, and for just being my conscience when I became judgemental, narratival, and my usual self-important. Also, for smashing my idols faster than I can build them.

10. For the Garklavas', for owning.

11. For my mentors Fr. Tarazi, Fr Behr, Dr. Bouteneff, Dr. Cornell, Dr. Kiriopoulos, Dr. Barnet, Fr. Hopko, and posthumously Fr. Alexander Schmemann. Whatever spiritual advice I possess is merely standing on the shoulders of giants. Anything I accomplish for God's kingdom is merely a footnote to the musings of greater minds.

12. For my Vlad's homies - too many to name, but you know who you are - for showing me that the gwaace of the holy spiiiwit... really can fill all that is lacking to an open heart.

13. For my blood-brothers: Dooba, Wes, Paul, Webb, and Andy.

14. For my parents, because without everything they have given me, the rest of this list would be irrelevant.

oddest little dreams

Last night I had a series of odd dreams. It's rare that my dreaming is so crystalline. I'm not one of those people who wakes up every other day with some claim to a lucid night experience, but last night was an exception.

The one that searing into my mind until this morning was a very strange one indeed. It was part of a larger set of mini-dreams where the character (ostensibly me) was faced with different situations where I had to sift through the other actors in the dream to figure out who the harmful ones were. My only guess is that the short story of demonic whodunit's can only be explained as a combination of reading too many Flannery O'Connor shorts, plus watching Saw and Saw II before bed.

But, back to my dream, the final dream in the series involved a very odd occurrance. I wasn't in much doubt as to who the bad ones were, nor the fact that they were too powerful to stop. At a certain point, and I can't remember if it was another character speaking, or a voice, or just my own thoughts on the situation, I had clearly lost the conflict, and I began to pray. The dream itself went dark as my dream-eyes were shut as tightly as my actual lids at night, and I remember thinking that the evil ones were gaining energy from everyone attempting to fight them. It's like the demons were using our own passions for survival, violent and flighty impulses, as sources of energy.

When I started to pray, I realized that I was going to be targeted. Still, I prayed, and had the thought "I will follow this path, even if I'm the last one on earth." So then there was a thunk, I believe that was me being killed, and I awakened in the dream to another place. I was there with another character who had been fighting the demons with a revolver. He walked away, looking dejected. I heard a voice, and might have even seen a person (can't be sure now) who simply told me "good...this is the path that divides." Then the land around, which had been arid the entire time, began slowly to bloom with greenery... at this juncture I lost the dream.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

A winter's scene

It was like a vision...

I was sitting in the stand, in the middle of nowhere, miles of low mountain woods on either side of me. Vision was high because the leaves were on the ground, and the sun was dying. The air was crisp enough that I breathed smoke without effort, and the cold left that acute ping on my tongue when my mouth opened too wide. I was huddled in camoflauge from head to toe, many layers deep.

Stillness reigned in all directs, except for a couple of squirrel's playing in the dry wood, and the slow trickle of a stream running over overlapping limestone rocks, creating hundreds of tiny waterfalls, as if God has left a tiny fawcet barely running. The water seemed cleaner in the cold.

The smell is remarkable. Unlike the summer, where every piece of flora and fauna from spiders to moss is exporting millions of scents, winter is austere; there are only the smells of evergreens, bark, fallen oak leaves, and dried hickory nuts blowing on the wind; well, and the musk of wild animals when they come near.

I sat there in the tree with bow in hand. The leaves were crunching under the ponderous movements from light hooves. Deer were coming. Out they came into the clearing. A small herd emerged from the mountain trail in orderly fashion. One of the larger does gave out a sharp bleet, warning the others about something.

There was no sound. Only the constance of the stream, and some inexplicable smoke rising in the trees.

Back to writing my books

Well, my project for writing a book for publication, so advanced over the summer, took a serious hit with trying to get around and teach a new class this past semester. But, hope is just around the horizon as winter break promises to provide ample opportunity too kill deer and turkey, quite a bit of cooking and eating to accomplish, and little else. So, that should allow plenty of time to get my writing well underway.

Any volunteer rough draft readers?

Don't call it a comeback!

Ahh, the title borrows from the beginning lines to the immortal LL Cool J classic "Momma Said Knock You Out". It's in reference to publishing back on my blog.

I haven't really been out of the writing loop, i've just been writing on facebook. Perhaps a couple of those magical little notes will need to be pasted on here in the near future.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Mindless party nonsense; how I hate thee

Tonight was a very interesting indeed. My mother had the pinning ceremony for her nursing class (the fall graduates from the Nursing program). The after-pinning revelries were two-fold: First, faculty ate dinner at Red Lobster, and then we were all supposed to go to some guy's poolhouse and join the students for an after-party.

There were no kinks in that schedule.

It's interesting how much I dislike parties. I do not like public dancing, I do not like large numbers of moron Americans around copious amounts of alcohol, and I especially do not like blasting butts-and-bass music in the background while I attempt to carry on trite conversations with people who respond like they should be wearing an "I'd rather be shaking my butt to ths crappy music" shirt.

I do wonder why it is that the party scene bothers me so much. Beyond mild moral critiques, I simply do not enjoy myself. The combination of thumbing noise and shallow conversations wear me out. I'm not one who's ever done well with the concept of "just being", or the corollary "just doing". Things need to have a reason. I need to see what they're getting at, and consequently whether or not I should follow them.

Truth be told, it's odd to me that so many people enjoy the mindlessness of it all. Not really appealing for me. There's nothing at a party that I can't do a better job of with just a few friends.

Oddly, there is one instance where I found parties fun - seminary.

Yes, you heard it here first. Seminary shindigs were generally fun. Again, I have yet to formulate exactly why the difference is so stark. The loud music is there, as it the alcohol, but the internal culture of the participants made those experiences wholly other than what I encounter in the public sphere. Now for the arduous task of figuring out how virtually identical actions can be fun in one sector, and so bloody annoying in another.